A week passed and Ocean’s opportunity had yet to arrive. She was becoming restless, her lithe body often tense. Our cell was visited by various guards, in groups, and every time someone was taken her patience grew thinner. There was nothing Ocean could do – nothing any of us could do. We were each taken in turn: always alone, always without warning. Flax had been seized the same night as Sunburst; returned with broken fingers and bruises lining his side hours later. Affair was taken the next day after a breakfast of bland broth and bread and was gone for almost a full twenty-four hours. The teenager suffered from a black eye and lacerations on his extremities. Ocean’s turn had been last night. She came back with a broken nose and a nasty wound across her cheek after close to twenty minutes. She reassured us that the man that interrogated her looked worse.
Sunburst had never been brought back to us. A full week of mystery surrounded his whereabouts. Each day that passed ate away at the hope we held for our friend. I could not allow myself to dwell on death, it would consume me. Instead, I preoccupied myself with thoughts of father. I tried to keep him warm and comfortable. Whenever we were given food – which wasn’t often – I would give more than half my share of broth to him. It was difficult. He was unconscious more than not. On the rare occasion he was awake, he would mumble on and on about an island. A place where we could be free, he said. It didn’t make sense to me – probably nothing more than a fever dream – but I would nod and agree with him, praying to whatever great being there might be in the sky that he would make it.
According to Flax, we had been in the cell for eight days when strange noises began to erupt around the facility. At first we thought there was just an unusual amount of activity in the prison. Affair suggested that more Uprising members might have been caught. Whatever the cause was, boots were constantly scuffing against the floor above us. Occasionally groups of guards would rush by our cell. I noticed some of them were injured.
Then night fell and gun shots began to resonate through the concrete building. We weren’t sure where the noises were originating from; it was hard to tell if the explosions were muffled from distance or cement. Within an hour it became clear to everyone – the Resistance’s base was under attack.
“Ocean, sit down.” Flax coaxed. Ever since we realized what was happening, Ocean’s pacing had been incessant. Every group of guards caused her to reel, and every wounded soldier they brought back caused her blue lips to pull into a smile.
“No.” There was no malice in her voice, just determination. Being in motion calmed Ocean’s nerves; focused her mind. The sounds of war settled around us, soaking into skin and reverberating through bone. Finally, Affair vocalized the question we all were afraid of.
“It’s the Uprising, Right? They’re coming to save us?”
I swallowed the lump in my throat, fingertips playing in my father’s hair, and forced a smile, “Of course. Who else could it be?” What a stupid statement. Of course it could have been a number of organizations: the government, wanting to extract its own revenge against us, for one. For the noise and chaos erupting outside seemed to be too frenzied for it to really be the Uprising. Only Pandora and possibly Noir remained outside these walls – if they even were outside these walls. I flinched at the thought. They had to be outside. They were strong and crafty individuals; not easily caught. And Noir, Noir had to have found my mother. Surely he was taking care of her somewhere far away from here.
Flax nodded in agreement with me, patting the teenager on his shoulder, “We’re going to be-“ A gunshot rang out, this one close by, and Flax’s sentence died on his lips. For the first time screams erupted, the cries mingling together until they were an incoherent chorus of horror. Affair jumped to his feet and pushed his face against the metal bars.
Squinting through the darkness, he shook his head, “I can’t see anything.” His voice climbed over the chaos, the only comprehensible voice amongst the shrieks.
More gunshots; this time in quick secession. The cries died off slowly, one by one, until an eerie silence claimed the damp air. Collectively we held our breaths as the sound of heavy boots approached us.
It was a guard, his movement sluggish despite having no apparent injuries. The sick smile on his lips spiked terror down my spine. His raised his head to look at us, a thick layer of blood dripping down his chin. Flax moved quickly, grabbing Affair’s wrist and yanking him towards the back of the cell. The guard’s right hand rose, wrapping around the bars. Eyes glinting dangerous in the dim light, his gaze slid from ‘Bow to ‘Bow until they rested upon me. Instinctively, I moved to protect my father from his sight even as the hair on my neck and arms rose. The unease lingering between us was only reinforced as heavy metal clanked open and closed. Stepping inside, the pistol in the guard’s clenched palm flashed precariously.
“Get on your knees!” Teeth gnashed together, saliva flying through the air.
I took a series of deep breaths. I wanted to stay calm, willed myself to move smoothly, but my hands still trembled as I raised them into the air. Four bodies slowly clambered onto their knees as the guard flashed the weapon at each of us in turn. I kept myself in front of my father, praying that the guard would ignore his unconscious form, to no avail.
“What’s wrong with him!” He shouted, more saliva racing out of his mouth.
Fear paralyzed my lungs, made it hard to breath. My father couldn’t die here – not like this. He had already come so far. I tried to speak but only air puffed out between my teeth.
“He’s unconscious, sir. He’s been in and out of consciousness for days.” Flax stated. His green eyes, usually riddled with worry, had hardened. I silently thanked him for coming to my aid. Unfortunately, Flax’s statement only infuriated the wary guard. He rushed forward, whipping the barrel of the thirty-five millimeter to Flax’s forehead.
“Shut up! Shut the fudge up!”
Flax flinched at the contact before steadying himself.
“I’ll pull the trigger! I fudging do it!”
Hot tears began to blur my vision, pooling over eyelids and down my checks. I could still make out the guard, his finger tightening on the trigger. The image of Flax dead, brains sprayed across the cement walls and Affair’s face, played in my mind. I screamed, the high-pitched screech ending in a small whimper as sobs took over my vocal cords. On cue, the guard lashed towards me. The barrel smashed into my temple, slicing open skin and sending me to the floor. Blood gushed down my face, the coppery fluid filling my mouth, and another scream tore from my throat – hoarse and primal – as an explosion punctuated the air. The whole cell seemed to shift, shaking, struggling not to cave in on itself. The light overhead flickered, propelling us into darkness and back again.
Through the strobe-like lighting, Ocean lunged through the air. Between the quake of the explosion and the weight of Ocean’s lithe frame, the guard collapsed to the ground, losing his grip on the pistol. The weapon skidded across concrete, out of sight. Ocean’s patience had finally paid off as her long graceful fingers wrapped around soft tissue and squeezed. The pressure on his trachea caused him to sputter, gasping for oxygen that would never come. As the last tremors shook the cage, our assailant’s chest stopped rising.
When Ocean was satisfied, she stood, throwing her hair out of her face. Her face was flush, lips parted as she caught her breath, “He’s dead.” Her voice was monotone, eyes still trained on the indents left around his throat.
“You only did what you had to. What I should have done.” Flax said, making his way over to her. He patted down the soldier’s sides until a soft chime sounded. Reaching inside a pocket, Flax took out a ring of keys and held them in the air, “Let’s get out of here.”
Ocean stopped to pick up the forgotten gun. She pressed a button and the magazine slid out into her palm, “There’s five shots left including the one in the chamber.” Five bullets. Five of us. A chill ran down my spine. We had been seconds from death, only saved by an unexpected detonation and Ocean’s quick reaction.
Helping me to my feet, Flax handed me the keys before scooping up my father. Being completely dead weight, my father was he gently maneuvered onto his shoulder. I wiped the blood from my eye, wincing as I grazed the cut on my temple, before shoving key after key into the cell door. Eventually one fit, clicking as I turned it.
With no real sense of direction, we made our way down the dungeon corridor with hitched breath. Ocean’s right hand ran along the cold walls as she led the way, whispering out numbers as we passed doors and passageways. We hadn’t gone far when the ground became sticky, damp stones shining red. Up ahead I could make out a cell, like the one we had been prisoners in. My stomach twisted, recalling the screams and gunshots we had heard just minutes before the crazed guard had appeared. Ocean saw inside first. Sorrow riddled her features before they were hardened by anger. She allowed her pace to falter, just for a moment, before she continued on, “Door number five.”
I clenched my eyes shut as I finally approached the massacre. I didn’t have to see it to know that was what it had been – an execution. Had the guard been ordered to commit these murders or were they of his own volition? The smile he wore as he approached, the glint in his eyes, told me that it was the former. I felt sick.
Eventually, Ocean took a sharp left. She seemed to so confident, so certain, that none of us questioned her judgment. After all, her guess was as good as ours. Still counting out doors and passageways, Ocean slowed when the soft murmur of voices broke through the hushed padding of our bare feet against concrete. Ocean held a hand up, slinking down the hall towards a door that had light pouring out from under its frame. Affair rushed to her side while Flax and I slowly approached. Ocean stood, legs slightly apart, with both hands firmly on the pistol. She aimed it squarely at the door and nodded once. Affair, with a flick of his wrist, opened the door before slamming his body against the safety of the stone wall.
Three shots exploded through the night air. My body jumped to match each sound, hands flying over my ears and eyes clenched shut. When I opened them I could make out a man and a woman huddled together on the ground. The man had been shot in the left side of his chest and the woman in the shoulder. The third shot had missed, lodging itself into the wood of the desk behind them. They nursed their wounds, curse words and sobs filling the air.
“Don’t move or I’ll shoot you again.” Ocean yelled. She stepped further into the room, waving the gun from one target to the next. Affair followed her inside. A frown marred my lips – was shooting them on sight necessary? They could have easily have been escaped prisoners or perhaps individuals trying to rescue us. I kept my thoughts to myself, slowly making my way into the door frame.
“What’s going on up there?” Flax pointed to the ceiling to emphasize his question.
The two distressed ‘Bows turned to look to look at Flax and me – who was repositioning my father on his shoulder behind me. They looked at each other once before the man finally answered, “It’s free-love supporters like you. Mutt sympathizers.” Despite the disdain and hatred that tinted his answer, relief washed over us. Ocean’s tense shoulders slumped, relaxing now that we were sure we wouldn’t escape from one terror only to emerge into another.
“Where’s Sunburst!” Ocean half shouted, half growled.
“I don’t know who that is.” The man whispered, flinching as Ocean whipped the gun in his direction.
“He was a prisoner! Like us! Where did you take him!”
“I. Don’t. Know. Where. They. Took. Him.” This time his voice was strained as he matched the hatred in Ocean’s eyes.
“Did you know of a prisoner named Pandora Spring or Noir Pinot?” I crossed the space between the door frame and the Resistance members as I spoke. I couldn’t just stand around and watch these two bleed to death. They might not have cared for us, our life or our loved ones but we couldn’t stoop to their level. We had to be better than them, “Put pressure on your wound. It will help with the coagulation.”
“You were numbers to us. We didn’t take names.” The woman spoke for the first time, her voice a strange mixture of fear and confusion.
“How do we get out of here?” Ocean asked. Her eyebrows furrowed as she aimed the pistol from one guard to the next.
“It’s hard to explain.” The man began, wincing as Affair applied pressure over his injury.
“Well you better start trying.” Ocean hissed.
“Ocean!” Her named flew out of my mouth, annoyance riddling my tone. Threatening these guards wasn’t right. No matter how much hatred she held for them, I wouldn’t let her harm or kill them without reason.
“I can show you! If you let me, I can show you.” The woman interrupted. We all looked at her, suspicion clouding our judgment. I might not want harm to come to her but that did not mean that she would treat us with the same respect. For all I knew, this woman could guide us right into the underbelly of their organization. She could also lead us to salvation. It was a risky situation.
“How do we know we can trust you?” Affair asked, breaking the silence.
“You don’t, but what other choice do you really have? You can shoot us dead now and wander around, hoping not to be found by other members of the Resistance or you can let me help you.” Her voice grew stronger as she spoke – the whimpering turning into an almost tranquil state of mind. I knew she was right; she was the best chance we had of getting out of here alive. It was amazing, really, that we had even made it this far without being seen.
I took a deep breath and nodded, “Okay, we’ll let you lead the way.”
Ocean looked at me, eyes wide, “What! No. The moment she hears someone coming she’ll scream for help. She’ll give away our position.”
Another deep breath to calm myself. I kneeled down in front of both of them, staring deep into her blue eyes, “If you make so much as a sound that we don’t agree with, Ocean will shoot you. It won’t be in your shoulder, either. I don’t want to hurt you so please, if you could just cooperate with us.” She nodded in understanding. The man beside her, however, did not agree with her sentiment.
“I’d rather die here, loyal, than a traitor like Casal.” He spat, “You know they’ll kill you when they find out, Mist. If they didn’t spare the chief’s son they’d never have pity you.” I had heard the name Casal once before, back at Jasper’s house. My eyebrows furrowed.
“I can arrange that.” Ocean stated. Affair pushed the gun’s barrel down, effectively ending her threat.
“We can tie him up. Someone will find him eventually.” Affair compromised, glancing at Flax and me for approval. A small nod of my head was all it took for the young man to snatch up a pair of handcuffs that were strewn across the desk. No complaints left our hostage’s mouth at the plan and Affair maneuvered him into a chair with ease. Ocean held Mist at gunpoint while Affair finished tying a few knots in some rope, hand cuffing the guard’s hands behind his back.
“When we get out of here we’ll tell someone that you’re in here.” Affair was trying to be reassuring but even as he spoke, the man rolled his eyes.
He kept his head held high as Affair worked at the restraints, “You are making a mistake, Mist.”
“Shut up.” Exasperation was evident as Ocean spoke. “Also, if you scream for help while we’re still within earshot I’ll backtrack in order to put a bullet in your head.”
Despite all of his bravado, the guard didn’t speak again. Even as we snuck down the dimly lit hallway with Mist at the lead, his voice was silent. Ocean’s threat had rung true, and though I didn’t agree with her methods, I couldn’t really argue with the results. Mist led us down a maze of passageways and corridors, climbing flights of stairs. She only stopped when she heard voices, allowing us a moment of reprieve, before signaling for us to move when the coast was clear. She did all of this with Ocean’s gun aimed at the back of her head.
Throwing her back up against a wall, Mist caught her breath and gazed back at us with heavy lidded eyes. I followed her lead, relishing how the cool stones felt against my flushed flesh. Our pace had been rigorous, especially since the lot of us had been confined to a ten foot cage for over a week. Soft whispers drifted across the still air and Mist raised a finger to her lips, making herself as small as possible against the wall. Ocean’s aim drifted over Mist’s body for the firs time, ready to fire at whoever strolled around the corner.
Out of all the people that could have rounded that corner, Cephei hadn’t even crossed my mind. Her long yellow hair had been pulled into a bun and her usual casual clothing had been replaced with cameo print pants. A shot rang out and Cephei’s calm steps fumbled, causing her to almost crash into the floor out of surprise as a bullet rooted itself right above her head. In the blink of an eye Cephei regained her posture, aiming her pistol straight at Ocean’s head. Her gaze roamed over to me before snapping back to Ocean and it dawned on me that Ocean had not lowered her weapon. Cephei hadn’t retaliated: she was a smart woman and realized that we were half naked and bruised, prisoners, but Ocean did not know who Cephei was. To Ocean, Cephei was just another faceless guard, an enemy. Not a member of Bubbleport’s Uprising, an ally.
I threw myself into the space between them, “Ocean, don’t shoot. She’s one of us.” Shock registered in Ocean’s eyes before, slowly, she lowered her weapon.
“Estellise, you’re okay.” Cephei whispered, shoving her glock into the waist of her pants.
“Yes, I’m fine. What are you doing here? Is Noir okay? My sister?” A million questions danced on the tip of my tongue but I stopped myself from spewing them.
“We’re still securing the building,” Cephei gestured down the hall she had just came from, “I’ll explain as we move – we aren’t safe yet.”
Mist began fiddling with her hands, eyes down casted. I could read it on her face, in the shaking of her knees. She was scared, unsure what we would decide to do with her now that her presence was no longer necessary. I shot her a reassuring smile, tugging softly on her wrist as I passed. She followed after me silently, Ocean keeping an eye on her every movement.
“Eden called me a few days ago, told me that the Resistance had left Bubbleport defenseless. We took steps to quickly secure the city but our break really came when Matisse gave his verdict to support the Uprising just three days ago.” I could hardly believe my ears. It had worked? Noir and I had actually been able to convince Matisse – the CEO of Matisse Inc – to abandon his neutral stance for a pro-mixture one?
“After we fortified the city, the broadcast happened.”
“The broadcast?” Affair echoed, sounding as confused as I felt.
“Yes, the Resistance is made up of a council – many of the Berry Mainland’s politicians are part of it. They were broadcasting one of their meetings on Apple Pie News. Several individuals spoke and Eden was one of them.”
Flax voiced his question next, “Wait, why was Eden allowed to speak at such an event?”
Because he’s a lying, back stabbing, traitorous monster; I kept those sentiments to myself.
“We’re not sure yet. It’s really hard to explain what happened. About halfway through his speech he took off his jacket and underneath he was wearing a black hoodie – like the ones we wear during protests – and started to talk about how wrong they were. How misguided and uninformed their cause was. The audio cut out but whoever was controlling the camera didn’t censor the picture before he was shot on live television.”
“They killed him?” My long strides became tangled, toes stubbing against uneven concrete.
“They created a martyr in the process. The people are demanding justice. They couldn’t just sweep his death under the rug like they have with so many others. Zinfandel Plains is up in arms about it – Eden was from there, well known and well liked.”
The fight was over as ‘Bows dressed similarly to Cephei patrolled the area, some with hostages and some without. I couldn’t focus on anything as we emerged into the sunlight. The only thought that stuck in my head was that Eden was dead. I couldn’t understand it. Why would he do that? He had been working for the Resistance since day one, or had he? I had never given him the opportunity to explain himself. I had been so angry, so consumed by his betrayal that I never thought to give him a second chance. Why should I have? How could I have known that it wouldn’t just be more lies meant to further ensnare me in his web?
My name broke through the fog in my head. Noir was running towards me, relief flooding his aura. I allowed myself to be twirled in the air as his words floated around us. Feet planted firmly back onto the ground, I sobbed into his chest. The tears didn’t stop as he guided me to a medic, as they cleaned me up. So many had been lost: Jasper, Sunburst and Eden. More still had to be identified. Would anything ever we okay again? Would so many people, on both sides, be able to pull their lives back together after such tragedy?
I pictured my family: Pandora, who had been fighting nail and fist to get me back. My mother, scrambling around tending to the injured. My father, unconscious and sick but alive. And Noir, who was holding my hand and whispering words of encouragement despite my sullen expression and refusal to speak and I knew the answer to that question.
It wouldn’t be easy but we would make it.
A.N: So this generation isn’t completely over (I have some setting up to do for the next generation but I can’t do that until I know who wins).
So go vote for the generation 3 heir!